The Charlotte Cushman Foundation was created in 1999 by the Board of Managers of the Charlotte Cushman Club of Philadelphia.
The Club had been organized in 1907 by Lydia Elliot Morris in response to a need for safe, respectable lodgings for actresses appearing at local theaters. Inspired by the great American actress Charlotte Cushman (1816-1876), who often lamented the hardships of touring, funds were raised to set up a comfortable boarding house.
Many famous performers visited the Club, attending post curtain parties with members and offering their support. In different buildings over the years, the Club eventually became not only a residence but also a social center for the theater community, with a large collection of plays, books and memorabilia.
In 1957 the Board initiated a Lifetime Achievement award presented in person at the Club to such stars as Helen Hayes, Henry Fonda, Angela Lansbury, Richard Burton, Katharine Hepburn and Zoe Caldwell. Between 1972 and 2002 special event funding allowed the Club to offer scholarships to promising young performers.
Beginning in 1995 the Club sponsored the Charlotte Cushman Award for Outstanding Leading Actress in a Play, presented at Philadelphia’s annual Barrymore Awards.
In 1999 the Board of Managers determined that the Club had “outlived its original residential and educational purposes” and chose to redefine its mission. The Club records were given to the library of the University of Pennsylvania and the clubhouse and its contents were sold. Proceeds from the sale were added to the existing endowment to fund the Foundation.
That year the Charlotte Cushman Board Room and exhibit were established at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. Since 2001 the Charlotte Cushman Foundation has provided grants to over sixty local theater companies in support of actors’ salaries.